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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The "Back Again" direction of "There and Back Again"


Nov 15 2012, 5:44pm

Views: 1112
The "Back Again" direction of "There and Back Again" [In reply to] Can't Post

Why not travel through Mirkwood? Although their determined path is “safer” and Beorn will be with them, wouldn’t it save time to perhaps pass through the forest with the help of the elves?
I've never understood this myself. It seems safer to me, and of course shorter. When Tolkien goes on to say that the northern route wasn't trouble-free, I can't figure out why they didn't take this route. And which route did Gandalf use to get to Erebor? I suppose one could say that Bilbo warned them that the boat for getting over the enchanted river was lost, but since presumably the Elves put it there, you'd think they could go put another one for these and future travelers.

Does Tolkien leave the reader open to imagination here? What sort of creatures might we concoct? What sort of hardships? Or is it all meant to be ignored for the sake of time?
This works well for me--he certainly fires up my imagination with what happened. Tolkien the tease! As for what the creatures are, I'm not sure Tolkien always knew himself. I get that feeling when Gandalf talks about falling into the uttermost depths of Moria and saying there are old, nameless monsters there that he won't talk more about. You read that and conjure up your own scary image of monsters, and the hazier you are about them, the scarier they are. But I also think he's trying to save time here. The big events are over, and he needs to make the trip home short for readers.

How does this visual interact with the story? How big is Middle-Earth? How high has Bilbo climbed?
The one thing I'd fault Tolkien for in a big way is descriptions like this. Stand on high mountains like the Rockies and look out on the plains, and you just can't see that far. The dwarves' passage through Mirkwood is supposed to take a long time, but when I read that you can see from the Misty Mountains to the Lonely Mountain, it seems like you should be able to walk across Mirkwood in a week or less. So descriptions like this make Middle-earth seem to small to me, and the vast, epic distances that people cross appear to be trivial.

Is The Hobbit as true a fairy tale as they come by, or just plain fantasy and adventure?
To me it's fantasy/adventure with some fairy tale elements thrown in like the repetition you mention.

Thanks for leading the discussion!

Subject User Time
**The Return Journey** Part Three - "snow after fire" One Ringer Send a private message to One Ringer Nov 9 2012, 5:21pm
    blown away elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Nov 9 2012, 5:44pm
    The Necromancer Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Nov 10 2012, 9:52am
    The "Back Again" direction of "There and Back Again" CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Nov 15 2012, 5:44pm
        Good point about the "others"! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Nov 22 2012, 1:12am


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